Sunk in July 1956 after being struck by the Swedish liner MS Stockholm, the elegant SS Andrea Doria was truly a marvel of shipbuilding - albeit mingled with that ever-so-famous Italian penchant for lavish extravagance. The tragic collision and sinking resulted in nearly fifty deaths and was witnessed by countless television viewers around the world - it was the first ever televised sinking of an ocean liner. The stunning aerial photography of Harry Trask for the Boston Traveler won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize and made the sinking world-famous.
It's difficult to describe what draws me to the SS Andrea Doria - it is almost an ethereal, otherworldly feeling, of a spectral hand dragging my mind under the Atlantic waves. The sheer beauty of this vessel is astonishing; her draft, beam and streamlined superstructure were a match made in heaven and a naval architect's wet dream. This is why the sight of her current condition after so many years of being prey to deep waters and shifting currents is horrifying to say the least. The superstructure is warped and collapsed, and her blackened hull is buckling inwards. It looks almost as if a meteor struck the ship from above, creating a crater where elegantly clad women once descended gilded staircases for sumptuous dinners with their dapper husbands. I suppose, in a way, knowing what once was there exists only in postcards or photos from that era haunts me. We lose too many beautiful things to tragedy and hardship, and that will never change. But with something as close to my heart as ocean liners are, it guts me to know their fates. So many lay crippled, broken and rotting like scattered corpses on a long-forgotten battlefield.
That is the problem – we forget.
Countless souls have been lost to the sea, yet the only tragedy people know of by heart is the RMS Titanic, which has really become a cliché and joke amongst us liner enthusiasts, considering that every ship is her to most people. There are so many other disasters at sea that are long forgotten – the SS Arctic, Wilhelm Gustloff, and Awa Maru for example – and they deserve to be remembered. I suppose this harkens back to my previous posts in the sense of the same underlying theme that resonates with them all – if we forget what we’ve lost, then forget the future. Be a witness to the past – you’ll thank yourself for it.
An Ottawa-based writer, born in Cobourg, Ontario. A shortlisted winner of the 2014 National Capital Writing Contest, Reed is currently studying Professional Writing at Algonquin College to further hone his skills. His passions include ocean liner history, Art Deco design, fiction writing and everything to do with Stevie Nicks.